If McPherson College’s Bulldogs can play with the same spirit that the late Blake Reed exhibited during his lifelong battle against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, they’ll be right in Saturday’s game with the Bethel Threshers.
Saturday is the most special home game of the year, as it’s the Blake Reed Memorial Game.
Kickoff at McPherson Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Blake was a football manager for both McPherson High and McPherson College before passing away in 2010 at the age of 22. His spirit, however, has lived on with the Mac2Mac Scholarship, established by his parents Ronnie and Terri Reed, and his sister, Tiffany.
While McPherson College first-year coach Paul Mierkiewicz didn’t know Blake, he has been acutely aware what he meant to the college and football team. He said his team will try to embody Blake’s heart and play with emotion.
The Bulldogs enter the game 0-2 and will try to get kick-started on the offensive side. They have scored only two touchdowns in two games, one of those coming from the defense on a fumble return by Dalton Whitfield.
Bethel is 1-1, having opened KCAC play last week by raising a few eyebrows with a come-from-behind 30-23 victory over Bethany in what many called a surprise. In its opener, the Threshers appeared to have Hastings College defeated, only to give up a last-minute touchdown in a 33-29 loss.
“When I look at them, defensively you look at the depth chart and they’re not the biggest guys in the world,” Mierkiewicz said. “But they are quick and they move real well as a team. Don’t kid yourself, they’re 19 seconds away from being undefeated. They’re a very good football team, a very good defensive team.”
Offensively, the Threshers have a dynamic 1-2 punch in quarterback Brandon Steed and running back Preston Oliver. They have battered their first two opponents with a punishing running game.
“To be really honest, they go offensively as their quarterback and tailback go,” Mierkiewicz said. “Both of them run it extremely well. They’re very long and tall at wide receiver and very athletic. We’re really going to have to rally to the football defensively and create some turnovers.”
The biggest need, though, is for the offense to start sustaining some drives to keep the exhausted defense off the field. The Bulldogs have yet to hit the 150-yard mark in total offense through two games. Chris Linnin is going to make his second start at quarterback, while DeAvonte Doucet is getting the start at tailback to perhaps give the running game a little more of a burst. Mierkiewicz said it’s imperative to get senior receivers Ste’fon Walker and Michael Ramos more involved as they have barely had touches so far.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have had some outstanding individual performances in defeat, including Whitfield, Joseph Mooney and Bradley Campbell. All three were double digits in tackles last week, as was Greg Elvin.